National Sports Briefs

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Associated Press

MELBOURNE, Australia — Rafael Nadal finally got to see how he holds up against a guy who can also beat Roger Federer.

And when his night’s work was done — well past midnight — he understood what he had accomplished against Andy Murray.

“It was a very, very, very important match for me, very tough,” Nadal said. “Andy was playing at an unbelievable level. He’s very smart on court, for sure.”

For four sets there was little to separate the two. But Nadal outlasted the 19-year-old Scot, twice rallying from a set down to win 6-7 (3), 6-4, 4-6, 6-3, 6-1 and reach the Australian Open quarterfinals.

The men’s quarters start today, with Federer taking on No. 7 Tommy Robredo of Spain, and sixth-seeded Andy Roddick playing friend and former housemate Mardy Fish.

Top-seeded Maria Sharapova downed No. 22 Vera Zvonareva 7-5, 6-4 Monday and will play another Russian in the quarterfinal after 12th-seeded Ana Chakvetadze beat No. 8 Patty Schnyder 6-4, 6-1.


RALEIGH — Five players from North Carolina schools will play in the Senior Bowl, game officials said Monday.

Three North Carolina State players — offensive lineman Leroy Harris, defensive back A.J. Davis and defensive lineman Tank Tyler — will play for the South team.

East Carolina receiver Aundrae Allison and Wake Forest safety Josh Gattis were picked for the North team.

The Senior Bowl, which is Jan. 27 in Mobile, Ala., is considered the top game for senior NFL prospects and a total of 100 seniors were selected to play.


PHOENIX — Former heavyweight champion Mike Tyson pleaded not guilty Monday to charges of drug possession and driving under the influence of drugs.


MINNEAPOLIS — Right-hander Ramon Ortiz and the Minnesota Twins agreed Monday to a $3.1 million, one-year contract. Ortiz went 11-16 with a 5.57 ERA with 104 strikeouts last season.


NEW YORK — Atlanta forward Josh Smith was fined $25,000 by the NBA for making obscene gestures to the crowd after being ejected from a game against the Charlotte Bobcats last week.

Smith raised both middle fingers as he was about halfway through the tunnel at Charlotte.

* EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — New Jersey Nets forward Richard Jefferson will undergo arthroscopic surgery on his right ankle.